Sunday, September 30, 2007

And it's 1,2,3...what are we fighting for? (part trois)

The neverending war in Afghanistan is on the brink, and it's really not too surprising that NATO are forces are staying away in droves if they have to deal with this kind of thing.

In a pebble-strewn river valley enclosed by bare jagged mountains, smiling Afghan boys run alongside the foreign soldiers, as boys often do. The foreigners are US Marines and the boys often ask them for a dollar, a biscuit, a pen. And they ask: "How are you?"

On this day a Marine gives his standard reply to a mate, who records it on video.

"I'm on a field op. I have no f---ing money." As for the biscuit: "Do I look like Little Red Riding Hood, carrying around a load of biscuits? What the f---?"

What about the pen? "What the f--- they want a pen for?"

And how is the Marine doing? "I'm doing bad. That's how I'm doing. I'm in this shit-faced country."

The scene, and what it revealed about the attitudes of US troops, shocked US officers when it was posted on, a video website, earlier this year.

In the video a Marine says to one of the boys: "You know your country stinks like ass? What you think about that? You think it sucks? You stink like ass, too."

The same Marine gives a group of boys an impromptu English lesson, and they recite after him: "I am an idiot! We beg too f---ing much! F--- this country!"

One one level, the video is harmless. Soldiers grumble, their humour is raw. The Marines are young, tired, not knowing what they are doing so far from home, and the Afghan boys seem not to know that they and their country are being mocked.

While world attention is focused on Iraq, experts are warning that the US and its NATO allies risk losing another war.

..."[A]fghanistan is in danger of capsizing in a perfect storm of insurgency, terrorism, narcotics and warlords," according to US experts Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, writing in Orbis, a US foreign policy journal.

"The US is losing the war in Afghanistan one Pashtun village at a time," they write, "bursting into schoolyards full of children with guns bristling, kicking in village doors, searching women, speeding down city streets, and putting out cross-cultural gibberish in totally ineffective InfoOps (information operations) and PsyOps (psychological operations) campaigns — all of which are anathema to the Afghans."

NATO's efforts are also under domestic political threat, with European and Canadian public opinion increasingly questioning the involvement in Afghanistan.

The trouble, the MPs said, is that the 37 countries contributing to NATO's International Security Assistance Force lack a "well defined strategic vision for its presence" in Afghanistan. While NATO troops performed "brilliantly at the tactical level, the alliance does not yet have a sufficiently explicit goal for what it wants to achieve".

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